HORSE poker games are not what you think they might mean – these are 5 different poker games played one after the other. H.O.R.S.E. is actually an acronym. This type of game can be intimidating for inexperienced poker players because HORSE requires knowledge about different poker variants.

What are the rules of HORSE poker, and how to best prepare ourselves for this game? You’ll find all the answers below in our Guide to HORSE Poker.

What is HORSE Poker?

Four Aces
A Complete Guide to Horse Poker

H.O.R.S.E. poker includes five games played one after the other in rounds. The HORSE poker was created from the desire to play a more complicated variant of traditional poker. Many players were looking for an exciting challenge, and a mixed game like that was precisely that.

The game rose to fame during the $50,000 HORSE Championship at the World Series of Poker. The contest winner, Chip Reese, a fantastic poker player, showed many skills in the tournament, and for that reason, the trophy was named after him.

The H.O.R.S.E. acronym stands for:

  • Hold’em
  • Omaha Hi-Lo
  • Razz (7-Card Stud Low)
  • Stud (7-Card Stud High)
  • Stud (Eight-or-Better Hi-Low)

HORSE poker is often a choice of skilled players. This mixed game is all about your skills and knowledge of different poker variants. It’s not suited for players who feel very confident in one or even two types of games but have little to no experience in the rest of them. Every variant of poker is played during a HORSE poker game unless a different rule is established at the table.

HORSE Games

All five variants of poker in HORSE poker differ from one another. As such, it’s good to learn about each game, especially if you haven’t played some of them before. Here’s a short summary of the main rules in each variant.

Hold’em

In the popular Texas Hold’em, every player gets two cards. There are five open cards on the table, and it’s every player’s job to make the best 5-card hand. A player can use the two cards he was given and the five open for everybody. There are four variants of Hold’em, depending on the limit to the game: Limit Texas Hold’em, No-Limit Texas Hold’em, Pot Limit Texas Hold’em, and Mixed Limit Texas Hold’em. The game has a minimum of one and a maximum of four betting rounds. The player with the highest hand takes the pot, or in the case of two players having the highest hand, the pot is split between them.

Omaha Hi-Lo

Omaha has either Limit or Pot-Limit structure, and it’s never played as a No-Limit game. In this variant, every player gets four cards and uses at least two of them when making their hand. The pot goes to the player with the highest best hand (high) and the lowest best hand (low). Omaha Hi-Lo is played with the 8-or-better rule, where the low winning hand has to be made out of five different cards of 8 or less. If there is no such hand, the whole pot goes to the player with the highest best hand.

Razz (Seven-Card Stud Low)

In this poker game, the lowest possible hand is the winning one. The players are given seven cards, but the best (meaning the worst) 5-card hand wins the pot. In Razz, the Ace is always the lowest. The best possible hand in this variant is called the wheel. It’s the lowest straight where the cards go A-2-3-4-5. If two players have the winning hands, the pot is split between them.

Stud (Seven-Card Stud High)

Similar to Razz, in Stud, players also get seven cards. In this case, the best hand is the highest one. Stud is usually played with Limit structure. Seven-Card Stud is considered a more challenging and pure variation of poker, where heightened attention to cards and good instincts are the key to winning.

Stud (Eight-or-Better Hi-Low)

Eight-or-Better Stud has two possible winners – one with the highest hand and one with the lowest (lower than eight). In this variant, players also get seven cards and compose the best 5-card hand. The player with the lowest card (on the bring-in position) opens the betting. If there is no player with the lower than eight hand at the end of the game, the pot goes to the player with the highest hand.

It’s a good idea to learn about every variant in HORSE poker games. Of course, we presented only basic information, and there’s much more to these games. It’s best to use one of the guides to the specific variants and study them before entering any tournaments or playing online poker.

How Do You Play HORSE Poker?

Greg Mueller won his third WSOP Bracelet in the 2019 $10,000 HORSE Championship
Greg Mueller won his third WSOP Bracelet in the 2019 $10,000 HORSE Championship (Source: Pokernews)

Playing such a complex game requires excellent concentration and some skills. That doesn’t mean HORSE poker is unpopular. Many players don’t shy away from this challenge. HORSE poker is played at tournaments, but many people enjoy it through online poker. It’s a quick and easy way to play with and challenge some of the best players in the world. But how to play HORSE poker?

Rounds

The first thing to know is that every poker variant is played in rounds – one round on each game. Changes to that can be made only before the hand is dealt. The order of the games stays the same throughout the whole game. It’s Hold’em, Omaha Hi-Lo, Razz, 7-Card Stud High, and 8-or-better at the end.

You’ll know that the game has changed if you look at the top of a table, where the card of the current game should be placed. You’ll be notified verbally by a dealer too, and if you play HORSE poker online, look for that information at the top of the table border. Of course, you can tell that you play another variant of poker by how many cards you are dealt, but that might not work as much when it comes to the last three games.

Limits

It’s rather a norm in HORSE poker that each game is played with a Fixed Limit. It means that there is one limit on every game established at the beginning. It might be disappointing for some players that enjoy playing with high stakes. Still, HORSE poker is a game of skills that stays stimulating and rewarding for every player ambitious enough to learn about its twists and turns.

Worth Remembering

Something worth mentioning is that when the game switches to Razz, the button stays in the same spot, so when the game returns to the Hold’em the blinds are in the same spot.

Rules

Similar to other games, there are some rules that all players should follow. What are they?

  • All players have to come to the agreement that games will be played in rotation.
  • Any changes to the rotation (removing or adding any game) have to be agreed upon by all players.
  • In standard HORSE poker, every game is played for the full round and in order, except in certain situations where some changes have been implemented before the first hand.
  • Every player should have a chance to be the dealer for the game being played.
  • If a particular game doesn’t have a dealer button, it is usually passed around the table to keep track of the number of hands played.
  • It is in good taste that every player plays every game variant and doesn’t avoid the variants they may be unfamiliar with. It’s not a hard rule, but something to keep in mind when playing this game.

Strategy in HORSE Poker

When entering any contest or playing online poker, it’s best to work out some strategy to increase your chances of winning. Of course, there is no one right way to play HORSE poker, and you can allow yourself to be more spontaneous with your moves as you gain more experience in poker games.

You can do these things to help yourself win the game if you are a less experienced player.

Get Familiar with All the Variants

It’s the absolute minimum, but some people don’t do that. To be good at this game, you have to know the rules of each variant. Like we said earlier, HORSE poker is heavily focused on players’ skills and proficiencies in all the variants. Many players want to play a mixed game, counting on their mastery in one or two poker games and luck. That might not be the best way if you want to be good at this game.

Rely on Your Knowledge About Poker

Even if you’re not a master of some variants, you can still count on the basics of poker. For example, if you want to bluff, make sure it is beneficial in your situation. Don’t make moves that appear well-thought-out but really aren’t.

Another thing that can help you is remembering that playing in a position is usually better than being out of position. These simple rules can help you find your way around the variants of poker that are more difficult for you. The more confident you feel at poker, the better odds you have.

Pay Attention to the Players

We already established that many players don’t do their “homework”. You should pay attention to the weakest players in every variant and look for soft spots to show your skills. Some HORSE games are relatively well known, like Hold’em. Some can be more challenging, like Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo. Add to that the fact that many players are not well-versed in games with Limit versions. It all creates an opportunity for you.

Leave the Best for Your Game

It’s no secret that you have the most significant chance of breaking the bank in the game you feel the most comfortable with. That’s why it is in your best interest to play the biggest pots at poker games that you know best and avoid playing in high-stakes games where you clearly are not proficient in. Know your opponents and know your strengths and weaknesses.

Where Can I Play HORSE Poker?

The best places to play HORSE poker and other cash games are online casinos in online poker rooms. There are many benefits to that. You have access to various games, you can connect with other players without ever leaving the house, and you can safely operate with your finances. Furthermore, online casinos are the best place for you if you’re looking for a whole range of cash games.

HORSE Poker is not available on many sites, but you can still enter online tournaments, such as those found in Natural8, and enjoy playing this complex mixed game with the best players in the world.